by Associated Press

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Updated today at 1:41 PM

 

ATLANTA (AP) — In a dire warning Tuesday, forecasters said a potentially “catastrophic” winter storm threatened to bring a thick layer of ice to Georgia and other parts of the South, causing widespread power outages that could leave people in the dark for days.

Many people heeded the advice to stay home and off the roads, leaving much of metro Atlanta desolate during what is typically a busy morning commute. While only rain fell in the city, places 40 miles northwest saw 2 to 3 inches of snow. The rain was expected to turn to sleet and freezing rain and the ice coating was forecast for Wednesday.

When asked to elaborate on the “catastrophic” warning, Brian Hoeth, a meteorologist at the service’s southern regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, said forecasters were talking about an ice storm that happens only once every 10 to 20 years for the area. Forecasters predicted crippling snow and ice accumulations as much as three-quarters of an inch in area from Atlanta to central South Carolina. Wind gusts up to 30 mph could exacerbate problems.

Aaron Strickland, emergency operations director for Georgia Power, said the utility is bringing in crews from Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan. Strickland, who has spent 35 years with Georgia Power, said he’s never seen an inch of ice in metro Atlanta.

“I’ve seen people forecast it, but it’s never come,” Strickland said. “And I’m hoping it don’t this time.”

President Barack Obama declared an emergency in Georgia, ordering federal agencies to help with the state and local response.

The quiet streets were a stark contrast to the scene just two weeks earlier when downtown roads were jammed with cars, drivers slept overnight in vehicles or abandoned them on highways. Students camped in school gymnasiums.

 

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